Review: Superman #33 by Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr. & Klaus Janson

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Comics Nexus’ newest reviewer Paul Miranda! In his first review with us he tackles Marvel veteran John Romita Jr.’s July 2014 collaboration with DC Comics veteran and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns! Let Paul know what you think in the comments portion of this review. Welcome Paul!

Superman #33 Review

Written by: Geoff Johns
Pencilled by: John Romita Jr.
Inked by: Klaus Janson
Covers by: Klaus Janson, Rick Leonardi, Laura Martin and Erik Larsen
Colored by: Laura Martin
Lettered by: Sal Cipriano
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Another solid story scripted by Geoff Johns! It’s refreshing and also endearing to see how much focus is put on Perry White. The character steps out of his typical editor-in-chief role a bit when the reader realizes he is just as an important player in the mystery of Ulysses’ origins. Perry starts off in his gruff no-nonsense manner with his main staff but warms up to and practically melts around Clark. It seems pretty evident that Perry is the de facto father figure in Clark’s life. Seeing Perry try so hard to convince Clark to come back to the Planet while Clark remains steadfast in refusing his offer is humorous, touching, and realistic. There is some role reversal here: Clark is coy and somewhat stoic; Perry is eager and extremely helpful.

Relationships are key in this issue. The first part of this story flushes out the “father-son” dynamic between Perry and Clark. The second spotlights the “brother” dynamic between Superman and his kindred spirit Ulysses. I felt a bit of panic when Ulysses is standing smack dab in the middle of the Planet’s conference room looking straight at Clark, practically ‘outing’ him. Nevertheless, Clark plays it real cool and slowly whisks him away before too many questions can be asked. The interaction between the two is an enjoyable one — Clark explaining the need for a secret identity; Ulysses emoting his ‘alien’-ness by not understanding the ways of the world he is now in.

The story wouldn’t progress if Ulysses were to abide by Clark’s rule to stay put. The longing look in his eyes as he examines his parents’ portrait is heartfelt. Ulysses takes on some initiative by attempting to blend in and walking among the populace. A nice little nod is given to the titular hero when he takes out a red sweater and blue jeans from Clark’s closet. Subtle but effective. There are some humorous bits yet again with some young ladies commenting on Ulysses’ attractiveness, his confusion in being named “handsome”, naming himself Neil, and walking away without paying for a steak sandwich. The idyllic situation barely lasts since android shock troops arrive determined on eliminating the errant inhabitant from another world.

Superman does some effective investigating to further unravel Ulysses’ origins. Clark Kent is an excellent reporter in his own merit but it doesn’t hurt that as the Man of Steel he can get to places and find things that no mere mortal can.

The story ends with Superman taking Ulysses to his birth parents. Geoff doesn’t leave this plotline lingering for long. Neil’s parents’ reaction is quite genuine and poignant. Thus ends the third part of the story as well as the examination of the third relationship — the nuclear family. Superman’s happiness for Neil quickly turns to sadness since his own parents and foster parents are deceased. Despite some good coming out of Ulysses’ really brief time in our dimension, another layer of mystery is peeled as the man observing Superman states: “You have to be alone, Clark. For now.”

Romita continues to draw the characters clearly and crisply. Colour is used effectively with contrasts: Superman’s costume is practically black when he is underground of the Ulysses Research Lab and bright palettes when Neil is reunited with his parents. I particularly enjoyed Superman’s sheepish grin as he looks on the Quinns reunited with their son. That’s one look that’s rarely seen on the Metropolis Marvel.

Given that Johns’ dialogue is a bit wordy in the first scene and the fact that JRJR’s art may not be for everyone, Superman #33 is a great second offering from a creative finding its legs together as they set up a modern classic for DC’s premiere super-hero.

On the Miranda scale: 8.5 out of 10 Supermen of the multiverse

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